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First drive: Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.

First drive: Hyundai i30 Turbo
Can 186hp transform Hyundai's i30 into a C-segment hot hatch contender?

   



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Hyundai i30 Turbo

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Hyundai bolts a turbo into the refreshed i30 and creates a performance hatchback - but don't expect Golf GTI-rivalling thrills from it, as it's a warm rather than hot machine.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Hyundai i30 Turbo three-door
Pricing: from 22,495; 23,005 as tested (510 metallic Jet Black paint)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: three-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 169g/km (VED Band H, 295 first 12 months, 205 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 38.7mpg
Top speed: 136mph
0-62mph: 8.0 seconds
Power: 186hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 265Nm from 1,500- to 4,500rpm

What's this?

The overhauled Hyundai i30, the whole range getting some subtle design tweaks, a dual-clutch transmission and a few new engines - chief of which of interest to us is this range-topper, the 1.6-litre T-GDI unit. That means it's a forced induction powerplant, giving us a performance hatchback with a name redolent of the 1980s: the Hyundai i30 Turbo. Identifying styling points include a bespoke radiator grille, 18-inch alloys, reshaped bumpers front and rear with red highlights, LED daytime running lights and an exhaust pipe either side of the rear valance.

The interior gets sports seats, a sports instrument cluster and more red detailing, found on the steering wheel, gear knob and door trims, but it's the roster of standard kit that really impresses. Turbo buyers can luxuriate in dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and go, touchscreen satellite navigation, a heated steering wheel and front seats, cruise control, Bluetooth, a rear-view camera and more - however, even the three-door i30 Turbo as driven here starts at a sizeable 22,495; that's comfortably more than you'd need to be sat behind the wheel of the more powerful, overtly more sporting Kia pro_cee'd GT, which is 19,995 and has 204hp. A GT Tech Kia would be the same money as this Hyundai, and it comes with a seven-year warranty as well. Also, for a 1.6-litre turbo outputting a reasonably modest 186hp, the CO2 figure of 169g/km (VED Band H) is a long way off the best of this type of engine.

How does it drive?

Sweetly, in most regards, given it has an excellent ride, little in the way of wind or tyre noise and an engine that is extremely smooth when offering up the bulk of its power delivery. With peak torque from 1,500- to 4,500rpm, there's an ample spread of urge to call on that means you don't have to be constantly stirring the six-speed gearbox, although if you do you'll like the lightness and accuracy of throw it possesses. The brakes aren't extraordinary but they do a fine job of hauling the car down from speed on the roads, although the pedal feel could do with a little more finesse.

The problem is that the i30 Turbo is just too refined. Even full-bore acceleration in first and second gear doesn't feel shove-in-the-back quick, while the engine remains muted from idle to the 6,750rpm redline. And don't bother clawing in vain for that last figure - the 1.6 T-GDI is all done and dusted by 5,500rpm, after which it becomes breathless and coarse as power markedly drops away. We will concede it is a deceptively quick car, because the 265Nm of torque means the i30 Turbo can haul itself towards speeds of an illegal nature without breaking sweat; the issue is just that it never comes alive while doing so.

The final problem is with the three-mode Flex Steer system. Comfort, Normal and Sport are your options. None of them has any meaningful feel, Comfort being weirdly light and Sport having that artificial weighting that makes it a trifle unpleasant and inconsistent to deal with. Best to just leave it in Normal and accept the Hyundai's limitations. Blast around on the midrange, utilising the i30's massive grip and excellent resistance to understeer, and you'll be making decent progress. You just won't be smiling much in the process.

All of this is a pity because, with a just an ounce more character, the i30 Turbo would be a very likeable car. As it is, it's too uninvolving for a starting price that's 300 more than a basic Ford Focus ST (250hp, 360Nm, great soundtrack, fabulous chassis) - and while 23,000 won't get you in a Golf GTI, it will buy you a decently-specified Volkswagen Golf. The i30 Turbo feels like a missed opportunity to us.

Verdict

A lot of the traditional Hyundai values are stacked up in favour of the i30 Turbo, in that is has a lot of standard equipment, it comes with five-year warranty from the manufacturer, while both the interior and exterior are pleasantly styled, if not amongst the best in class. The 186hp engine is smooth and admirably quick too, but don't expect a thrilling hot hatch - it's just far too stand-offish. And it's not exactly cheap to buy, either.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 7 May 2015



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2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.



2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 

2015 Hyundai i30 Turbo. Image by Hyundai.
 






 

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